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The Sellout: How Three Decades of Wall Street Greed and Government Mismanagement Destroyed the Global Financial System Hardcover – November 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“[A] splendid account of the financial meltdown.” (Wall Street Journal)

The most comprehensive anecdotal account to date of the crisis.... Gasparino cuts his way through Wall Street rhetoric and in the process uncovers in considerable detail how blind profit-making ambition led to the destruction of the markets. (New York Review of Books)

“Gasparino has consistently broken news on some of the biggest financial scandals of recent years, including the fall of Martha Stewart, Henry Blodget, and Jack Grubman. As anyone who reads the business pages knows, Charlie is one of the best reporters in the field.” (Mark Whitaker, former editor, Newsweek)

“Gasparino describes, in page-turning detail, a Wall Street world of ruthless financial titans.… No collection of courtroom documents will ever tell the story…as well as Mr. Gasparino does.” (Wall Street Journal, on King of the Club)

“A tough outsider willing to go to battle with anyone--colleague or contact-in pursuit of the story.” (Financial Times)

“An especially aggressive reporter.” (Vanity Fair)

“Gasparino is credited with breaking some of the more titillating tales of Wall Street misconduct.” (New York Post)

“Born in the Bronx to a construction worker and a housewife, Gasparino has risen from his working-class roots to become one of the most influential business reporters at work today.” (PR Week)

“Charles Gasparino sees the guts of Wall Street and the wreckage it leaves behind, day in and day out.” (San Antonio Express-News)

From the Back Cover

The definitive account of Wall Street's stunning collapse

From critically acclaimed investigative journalist and CNBC personality Charles Gasparino comes a sweeping examination of the most recent volatile, anxiety-ridden era in our nation's socioeconomic history. The Sellout traces the implosion of the financial services business back to its roots in the late 1970s when Wall Street embraced a new business model predicated on taking enormous risks. It shows how a backwater business involving the trading of risky bonds packed with mortgages showered countless billions in profits on the financial industry but sowed the seeds of its ultimate demise. Gasparino walks readers through Wall Street's three-decades' love affair with risk, revealing a trail of culpability—from the government bureaucrats who crafted housing policies that encouraged homeownership, to the Wall Street firms that underwrote and invested in risky debt, to the mortgage sellers who handed out loans to people without the financial wherewithal to pay them back, to the homeowners who became convinced they could afford mansions on blue-collar wages. The ongoing tumult in financial markets and the global economy began when some of our most esteemed financial institutions, our government, and even average citizens abdicated their collective responsibilities, eventually selling out investors and selling off the American Dream itself.

In the spirit of classics such as Barbarians at the Gate and Liar's Poker, this page-turning narrative captures how avarice, arrogance, and sheer stupidity eroded Wall Street's dominance and profoundly weakened the financial security of millions of middle-class Americans. Eye-opening and engrossing, The Sellout provides the most thorough investigation to date of this latest gilded era.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; First Edition edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061697168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061697166
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,043,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Gasparino is an on-air editor for CNBC, a columnist for the Daily Beast and the New York Post, and a freelance writer for Forbes and other publications. He previously wrote for Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal, where he covered issues on Wall Street, including pension funds, mutual funds, and regulatory issues. Gasparino has won numerous business journalism awards, and he is the author of Blood on the Street, which was a BusinessWeek bestseller and was listed by Barron's as one of the best business books of 2005, and King of the Club, which was named one of the best business books of 2007 by Library Journal.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 167 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rated 4.5 stars; rounded up.

It's almost impossible to understand what happened on Wall Street in 2007 and 2008 without going back in time to the 1970s, the era in which investment banking changed forever. And that's what Gasparino does in this book, making it one of the most valuable books about the financial crisis published so far that the general reader is likely to find. Its nature is likely to come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the author only from his television appearances; while it has all the gossipy insights into Wall Street that Gasparino has always delivered (including Jimmy Cayne, the former CEO of Bear Stearns, offering him what Cayne described as a joint in an elevator one day...), it thankfully goes well beyond that. The scandalous tales about daily life on the Street are there to entertain and amuse us, sure, (along with a reasonable degree of self-promotion) but the author combines that with solid analysis and insight into the role played by the evolution of structured finance and the failures of risk management.

Most significantly, Gasparino pays attention to history, specifically to the way that a handful of bond market honchos transformed the mortgage lending market from a local business into a Wall Street affair. He weaves together the strands of the narrative deftly, showing how politics in Washington and greed on Wall Street combined to turbo-charge the level of risk-taking and then a series of risk-management failures. Andrew Ross Sorkin's book,[...] is more elegantly written and works as a great chronicle of the months that lay between the collapse of Bear Stearns and the near-apocalypse of September 2008, six months later, but a lot of the historical context needed to understand why those events unfolded as they did is missing.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By optionguy on November 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First off, I worked with or for many of the major characters (especially at Merrill, but also at Morgan Stanley). In particular I was at Merrill during the LTCM debacle and can say that amazingly Gasparino got the character of O'Neal, Kronthal, Kim, Semerci and Latannzio generally correct even in the earlier crisis. I remember O'Neal ripping a new orifice in Connie Voldstadt who headed European fixed income on a conference call in the fall of 1998, without O'Neal really even understanding the actual essence of the problem. Semerci was a salesguy who nearly blew up Turkish accounts with mis-sold derivative transactions in 1997-98, yet i can see O'Neal being enamoured with him and unbelievably putting him into a position that people 10 times smarter than him held 10 years earlier. Charlie goes soft on Osman. Dow Kim is another character that gets off relatively easy. Kronthal (and especially Bobby McCann ) comes off as better than he was, still considering the vast number of issues Gasparino got them fairly right.

I think Gasparino covered most of the major issues, the lack of mark-to-market accounting, the hubris, and most importantly stupid assumption that many of us tried to warn various financial institutions was incorreect (that house prices can and do go down, but in 2004-2007 most mortgage involved people had almost a Jonestown belief that it couldn't happen and anyone who thought it could was defective). He gets it right that many of us were of the belief that Greenspans last act of integrity was in 1995 when he made his irrational exhuberance speach.
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60 of 80 people found the following review helpful By David Bahnsen on December 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charlie Gasparino's The Sellout has been more hyped on CNBC than any book that any of their affiliated personalities have ever written, and frankly, for those who have that network on 60 hours per week as I do, it may seem like it has been more hyped than Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code combined. For those who find themselves short on time for an abundance of 500-page books about the 2008 economic crisis, I am happy to report that you will be able to do without The Sellout.

Charlie Gasparino is like the TMZ silo of CNBC. He may not be a pure gossip columnist, but the fact that some of what he reports is true does not make it a whole lot more compelling than Entertainment Tonight or E! True Hollywood Story. Gasparino is a bulldog, and he has an impressive career resume. I actually thought his last book (King of the Hill, about former NYSE head, Dick Grasso) was quite good. For some reason, The Sellout left me wanting more.

There is the possibility that I am becoming fatigued. I have read no less than 10,000 pages thus far about the economic crisis of 2008, and the book I read immediately before Gasparino's was also 500 pages (though far, far better). I found The Sellout to be incredibly redundant, and staggering in its over-simplification of nearly everything he attempts to describe. The book's basis thesis is that Wall Street has been increasing its risk and leverage levels for decades (an incontestible fact), and that Wall Street has been "bailed out" by the Fed and the Treasury before (though despite over 200 references to the Long Term Capital Management escapade of 1998 - no joke - it is incredible how unsuccessful he is in actually connecting the dots to the 2008 meltdown).
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